I Just Couldn't Get There

Pink flowers.

I love these pink flowers. Don't you?

My 5-day silent retreat lasted from Sunday through Thursday. On the drive down to the beach house on Captiva Island on Sunday, I began to get in touch with my expectations for the week, and on Monday night, I kneeled on my bed and sought to offer Jesus everything I had

But on Tuesday, I faced the hardest of days.

I shared in my last post what all the items left on my person symbolized and why I couldn't give them up. When I talked with my spiritual director about my inability to give these items over, she sat with me in the quiet as I sought to talk to Jesus about my lack of trust in handing those items to him. I stood there on the path in the woods with Jesus, facing him, wearing only my cotton, knee-length, eyelet slip dress, my wedding ring, and those beautiful diamond earrings in my ears.

As I sank into that moment with him on the path, I told Jesus about my inability to give him all I had left. I guess I didn't know how to live that fully surrendered life in the end, but would he maybe show me how? He said of course, that it was his desire for me to live that way as it was, and so of course he would show me how.

By the end of that prayer, I thought I had moved forward in the image, thought I had reached a point of giving Jesus the last of what I wore -- or at least one of the items -- but after the call with my retreat director ended, I realized that I hadn't. Only then did I realize that I was no more near doing so than I had been before we talked.

The rest of that day -- Tuesday -- was so, so difficult for me. I watched Jesus and I stand there, facing each other, neither of us moving, with those three items still sitting on my body. As we just stood there, I couldn't stand it. So I avoided the image that day. A lot. I got up and made some lunch. Then I went back to the couch, and suddenly all the research books I had brought with me to work on my capstone thesis project for grad school were the most interesting books in the room. I picked one up and read most of the way through it. Then I picked up another and read deeply into it, too.

Books from my silent retreat in May -- some for study, some for contemplation.

The plethora of books

Over the course of that day and evening, I read most of several of the research books I had brought with me. I found it ironic, even before I left on retreat, that my chosen subject matter was the interplay between spirituality and digital connectivity. So there in the quiet and disconnection of that silent retreat, I read books and books about the "loudness" of the internet. Irony. But on that day when I could go no further in my journey into the woods or surrender with Jesus, it was the only thing I wanted to do. I threw myself into research that day.

Every once in a while, I would check in with Jesus in the woods to see if anything had changed. But, no. There I stood in my knee-length cotton slip dress, staring at him. And there he stood, staring back at me.

That was the only night I felt incredibly tempted to break the silence. I wanted to call several people in my life: Kirk, my friend Barb, or my friends Sara and Kate. I wanted to text message them, just to feel a connection. I also wanted so badly to access Netflix on my iPhone that night in order to watch an episode of Grey's Anatomy! Instead, I played an abacus word game on my phone, telling myself it wasn't cheating.

When I went to bed that night, I checked in with Jesus again. Nothing had changed. Still I stood there facing him, and still he stood there facing me. He said nothing. I said nothing. I willed myself to move, but willing myself to do it accomplished nothing. He stood there, looking at me with eyes of truth yet waiting, not making any movement to advance further along on the path with me. We were in a holding pattern.

I fell asleep defeated and sad. When I woke in the morning, I couldn't get out of bed. Every morning at 11 a.m., I would call my retreat director to connect for an hour by phone about the progress of my retreat, and every morning until then, I had woken early to make coffee and sit on the couch in the morning sunlight, just reading and praying in the quiet.

But not that Wednesday morning.

That morning, I stayed in bed until the clock on my phone turned over to 11 a.m., and then I called her, still in my pajamas and not moving from bed, barely able to move just to hold the phone up to my ear. It was the most difficult place I had been all week, and I didn't know what to do. I had zero energy and felt myself in a really bad place.

Stay tuned to hear what happens next . . .